M994X.5.273.150 | Confederation ! The Much-Fathered Youngster

Confederation ! The Much-Fathered Youngster
John Wilson Bengough
1886, 19th century
Ink on newsprint - Photoengraving
31.5 x 25.3 cm
Gift of Dr. Raymond Boyer
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Cartoon (19139) , politics (general) (2228) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

Although the historical facts as to the origin of the idea of Confederation were familiar to most intelligent Canadians, (and they by no means the oldest inhabitants,) there was a standing dispute as to the party to whom the honor of its paternity belonged. Claims were put forth (amongst others,) on behalf of Messrs. George Brown, Sir F. Hincks, Wm. Macdougall and Sir John A. Macdonald. (Excerpt from: Bengough, John Wilson. A Caricature History of Canadian Politics: Events from the Union of 1841, as Illustrated by Cartoons from "Grip", and Various Other Sources. Toronto: The Grip Printing and Publishing Co, 1886.)

Cartoon originally published in Grip, September 30th, 1876

Artist John Wilson Bengough (1851-1923) first published this cartoon in 1876 in his satirical weekly, Grip. The cartoon depicts some of the politicians known as the "founding fathers" of Canada arguing over who deserves credit for giving "birth" to the fledgling "Confederation". In fact, over thirty-three men participated in the political conferences that led to the forming of the nation in 1867. This group was guided by the vision of the Great Coalition, an alliance of politicians from Canada East (Quebec) and Canada West (Ontario) that took its framework for a British North American federation to the maritime colonies and made the concessions needed to strike a deal. Interestingly, the political cartoonist does not depict a single representative from Canada East, overlooking the vital contribution of Sir George-Étienne Cartier who made the Great Coalition possible by including Quebec in the process.

  • What

    The caricatures represent (from left to right) George Brown, Sir Francis Hincks, William McDougall and Sir John A. Macdonald. The four surround a young child named "Confederation" who holds the "Union Act" in his hand. The captions read:

    Brown: Come to your genewine poppy!

    Hincks: I'm the Father of Confederation.

    McDougall: Gracious! Me own cheiled don't know me!

    Macdonald: Don't it recognize its real daddy?

  • Where

    Representatives of the various governments, as well as opposition members, met in 1864 at the Charlottetown Conference and then at the Quebec Conference. Finally, in 1866 when the deal had been approved by four of the colonies, several of the leaders met in London where Confederation was realized through the British North America (BNA) Act which took effect on July 1, 1867.

  • When

    In 1876, when this cartoon was first published, the new Dominion of Canada was rapidly expanding. The vast territory of Rupert's Land had been purchased, and Manitoba, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island had entered Confederation in 1870, 1871 and 1873 respectively.

  • Who

    Artist John Wilson Bengough (1851-1923) edited and published the Grip in Toronto from 1873 to 1892. Bengough's cartoons about 19th century politics were prominently featured in the Grip alongside puns, jokes and satire.